Three Japanese conservation groups are placing pressure on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to take action and ask the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), to comply with the WAZA Code of Ethics.
The groups Elsa Nature Conservancy, Help Animals, and Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation (PEACE), are asking WAZA to hold JAZA to task over the Japanese dolphin drives.
It was the second time that the trio of organizations had approached Dr. Gerald Dick, the Executive Director of WAZA, over his organization's disregard of JAZA practices.
In an initial petition dated last December, the Japanese conservation groups had asked WAZA to:
Take strong action to make the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) comply with the WAZA Code of Ethics and require that all JAZA-affiliated facilities immediately stop obtaining dolphins through the drive hunts in Japan.
The dolphin drives, which were the focus of the documentary, The Cove, occur on an annual basis and last for six months. This year alone, fishermen are allowed to drive in some two thousand plus dolphins. Animals not selected for captivity, are often slaughtered for food.
The brutality of the drive process has courted much controversy. In 2004, WAZA made a statement that its members should not, "accept animals obtained by the use of methods which are inherently cruel. An example of such a practice," they said, "is the catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as drive fishing."
Yet, according to the international group: Whale and Dolphin Conservation, "JAZA is a member institution of WAZA," and "over 55% of JAZA-members continue to buy dolphins from these hunts."
In response to the first petition submitted by the trio of groups, Dick defended WAZA's support of JAZA and claimed the drives were a part of tradition. "In some Japanese communities," he countered, "these drives have been part of the culture for centuries." But in an open letter back to the WAZA director, Elsa, Help Animals and PEACE disagreed.
"This claim is incorrect," they responded. "The drive hunt in Taiji was and is not, Japanese culture," and the town's own records proved otherwise they said:
The history of dolphin hunting in Taiji is short. According to "The History of Taiji," edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45.
Efforts to implore WAZA to make a stance were renewed after a particularly brutal dolphin drive that took place Jan. 17. An estimated 250 plus bottlenose dolphins were driven into Taiji's cove. One of the first dolphin's selected for captivity was a rare albino juvenile, that was separated from its mother and sent to the Taiji Whale Museum.
The dolphin, nicknamed Angel by Dolphin Project Cove Monitors, will probably "bring a great deal of interest," said Ric O'Barry, the Project's Campaign Director. The Taiji Whale Museum exhibits dolphins captured in the cove and sells their meat in the gift shop.
The Dolphin Project is asking people to contact Japanese leaders and ask them to release the dolphins in Taiji and return Angel to his mother.
"Considering WAZA’s Code of Ethics," Japanese conservation groups wrote, "we believe that even culture and long history should not be acceptable reasons to inflict pain and agony on wild animals," they said. The orgs also urged WAZA to implement measures to support the conservation and ethical treatment of dolphins:
"If JAZA continues to violate the WAZA Code of Ethics," they concluded, then "JAZA should be disqualified from remaining as a member of the WAZA, and should be expelled."
ELSA Nature Conservancy is the longest standing of the three organizations petitioning WAZA. Established in 1976, they have been active against the dolphin hunts for several decades through educational publications and initiatives.